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Government, Peacekeepers Clash With Rebels in Somalia

A soldier of the African Union Mission in Somalia takes his position during fighting between Islamists and government forces, in southern Mogadishu, February 14, 2012.

News reports from Somalia say that African Union troops have clashed with al-Qaeda-linked Somali rebels in Mogadishu.

It is not clear how many casualties were involved Tuesday in the heavy-artillery pre-dawn fire.

Military officials say the AU peacekeepers from Burundi, backed by the transitional Somali government troops, launched an offensive on al-Shabab bases on the outskirts of Mogadishu to secure the Somali capital. They said the operation was successful.

But al-Shabab news media quoted rebel sources as saying that their forces were victorious against peacekeepers and killed at least seven.

Al-Shabab wants to impose a strict version of Islamic law in Somalia. The group controls a large part of the country and is fighting to take over the capital, Mogadishu, which is held by a weak internationally-supported government.

Kenya also has sent its troops into Somalia to fight the rebels. Nairobi blames al-Shabab for abductions of foreign tourists from its territory.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.